“When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man shall give a ransom for himself to the Lord, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them. This is what everyone among those who are numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary.” Exodus 30:12-13
How much do you give as an offering to the Lord for the care of his church?
When the Tabernacle was built in the wilderness God commanded that a free will offering should be called for from the people. And the people gave with so much generosity that later a call had to go out for the people to stop giving. There was more than enough to see the tabernacle completed.
But this was not the only offering given for the care tabernacle. God foresaw that additional resources would be needed for the care of his house so he commanded that with every census of the people that a “ransom” of half a shekel should be collected from everyone counted, twenty years older and above. This “ransom” was collected at irregular intervals until the time of Nehemiah, who began the pattern of taking a census and collecting the “ransom”, or “temple tax”, each year.
How much was that half shekel worth in practical terms?
In Jesus’ day a working man earned a denarius per day and a half shekel was worth two denarius. Using this as our standard you could say that God was commanding an offering of two days wages be collected for the care of the his house. If you were to arbitrarily determine that a working man’s wage is $10.00 per hour, multiply that by 16 hours, for the number of hours typically worked in two working days, you’d get $160.00 for every adult male twenty years and older.
This was not an offering. Offerings were free will and given according to the ability of the giver.
Neither was it a tithe, which was a full tenth of the increase, or income, of the household and was give to the Levites as their inheritance from the land.
This collection, later called the temple tax, was a fixed sum required regardless of the financial status of the giver.
It seems hard that such a command should be given. But think of it this way. Whenever God makes a requirement you can rest assured that with that command there comes all the help we need so that we’ll be able to obey.
So we can treasure this as a promise that if we’re obedient God’s provided us with enough for our personal care, a tithe to return, freewill offerings to give and an additional $160.00 “ransom” to pay.
God is good. He always provides. The question is, do we trust him or do we trust the money he gives us?
I choose to trust God.